Paul Gray, RIP

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Paul_Gray-MIT.jpgPaul Gray, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1980 to 1990 and the man who handed me my college diploma, died today at the age of 85. Gray was the last true MIT nerd to hold the post, possibly the last who ever will. In his years in the MIT administration, Gray managed to improve the undergraduate experience and broaden the base of potential MIT students while preserving the school's distinctive ethos that he had known since his undergraduate days.

In the 2008 Infinite History interview with Paul Gray tells his life story in his own words (the link leads to a transcript), and what follows is a summary and excerpts that I found interesting.

Gray, the son of an electrical utility technician, started experimenting with electricity and magnetism as a first grader, began building and repairing radios with vacuum tubes at the age of 10, and became an amateur radio operator in high school, building his own equipment. Accepted to RPI, Yale, and MIT, Gray signed up for MIT at the urging of his high school English teacher:

GRAY: ... I was admitted to all three. But MIT was the only one that didn't offer me any money. The other two made it quite easy to go. And I was about to go to Yale, which it offered the most, when I had a conversation with really my first mentor besides my family. And that was my English teacher in high school: had her for four years. Emily Morford. M-O-R-F-O-R-D. And I told her-- she knew where I'd applied, she wrote a reference-- and I told her what my tentative decision was and she took me to the woodshed. And she said, "You can't do that. If you have a chance to go to MIT that's where you should go. It's the best place to study engineering."

INTERVIEWER: Now wait a minute, this is the English teacher telling you?

GRAY: The English teacher, English teacher. Who lived long enough to see me elected president here. What, 1950 to 1980, 30 years later. She couldn't come to the inauguration. She was in her 90s and lived in Florida, but she knew about it. She had been an important-- she was perhaps the teacher in high school that I remember the most. And that includes chemistry and physics and biology and mathematics. And it was her influence that pushed me the other way. I went back and the family said, "Well we can manage that. Do it." So that's how it happened.

I can't resist quoting what Gray said about how he learned to write and the disconnect between SAT scores and actual verbal skills:

GRAY: ... I've always enjoyed writing and do a lot of it. And maybe that's part of it because she taught writing, she taught the English language, the way it should have been taught. You know we diagrammed sentences, we worked on paragraph structure, the whole nine yards. And I came out of high school I think being a pretty good writer. And it paid off in later years here, still pays off.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think many MIT students can diagram a sentence today?

GRAY: No, too many of them can't really create a sensible sentence, let alone a paragraph. It's astonishing to me. I mean MIT students come here with an average verbal school of something like 750. But still most of them are abominable writers. Not all-- I mean, some are very skillful. Some have learned the craft. But a great many of them come here needing a boost in their writing, which they get.

Gray was the last of a series of five presidents with connections to the Institute prior to taking office, and one of three who had attended the university as undergraduates. Gray's two immediate successors had no prior connection to the Institute; the current president, L. Rafael Reif, joined the MIT electrical engineering faculty in 1980 and has been at MIT ever since.

As an undergraduate, Gray found a home away from home and lifelong friends in an MIT fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa:

During the summer, in those days, freshmen got visited by fraternity students because when you arrived here, you had to make a choice between whether you were going to live in a dormitory or live in a fraternity, pledge a fraternity. And I had a visit that summer from two students, both of them living in New Jersey, and I said, "No, I'm not going to rush week. I'm going to live in the dormitory." I already had an assignment in East campus which was then all single rooms. And I lived there through, about through Thanksgiving, but found it was intensely lonely, partly because all the folks around me in that dormitory were GIs who had come back from World War II. You know, the largest class ever to graduate from MIT was the class of 1950, because it swept up all the guys who had had their education interrupted in the early '40s. And the GIs who returned were very single-minded about their studies. They were not involved in any social life or other activities that eighteen-year-olds would be involved in. And I just felt isolated.

So as it happened, the two students who had visited me in the summer showed up again one evening and visited me at the dormitory and said, "Why don't you come over and have dinner?" Well I did. And that opened my eyes to a very different style of living at MIT. To live with 28 other people in a four-story house on Commonwealth Avenue. And so I moved into the house in December and lived there for the next three-plus years. Three-and-a-half-plus years. And that was also an important learning and living experience for me because I was an only child. I had only two cousins, one on each side of the family, saw them seldom and really had grown up without-- had neighborhood friends, to be sure, but their interests were different from mine-- had never had an association with other people my age whose interests overlapped with mine. And I had a role there eventually in governance of the place, as well as most people did, and it was a great experience....

The living members of my pledge class, of which there are about five or six, we get together every September for a clam bake at one or another's house. This year it's at our place.

Gray received his S. B. in Electrical Engineering in 1954, his S. M. the following year, and then decided he'd "had it" and was leaving MIT, never to return.

After two years in military service, which involved teaching GIs in the use and maintenance of listening devices, Gray came back to MIT in 1957 and received his Sc. D. in 1960. Gray's doctoral research involved developing compound semiconductor materials for new applications, in which he had to develop the techniques to make the materials himself in an induction furnace: "Nobody to teach me the techniques, to how to do this in a way that would produce crystalline materials. It was a real challenge."

During his military service and doctoral studies, Gray discovered that he loved teaching. As a new faculty member, Gray became a leader in redirecting the electrical engineering curriculum from vacuum tubes to semiconductors. In the late 1960s, Gray was asked to move into higher positions of administrative leadership, serving as an associate dean of student affairs, associate provost, and dean of engineering. When Jerry Wiesner became MIT president, he asked Gray to become his deputy as chancellor of the Institute.

I'll let you read for yourselves Gray's role in the creation of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and his description of the pragmatic and peaceful process that led MIT to reach out deliberately to encourage members of minority groups and women to apply. (Prior to 1968, MIT did no recruiting at all and accepted about 25% of applicants.) I'll close by focusing on a couple of anecdotes that epitomize Gray's leadership as president.

In the fall of 1982, MIT's chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) planted and inflated a weather balloon marked MIT in the middle of Harvard Stadium during the Harvard-Yale game, a stunt regarded as the greatest hack in MIT's history:


Dear Derek,

Word has come to me that your campus police are holding some property which rightfully should be located in the MIT Museum. Can this be true?

Surely you have little use for a makeshift device constructed from vacuum cleaner parts, points from a 1967 Mustang, and a handful of marbles. We, however, being the sentimental sort, would take great care of -- indeed, we would enshrine -- this symbolic highlight of the 1982 football season.

Please give it back.

Sincerely yours,
Paul E. Gray

A few years later, enrollment in Course VI, the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, as the first generation of students who had begun working with computers in high school arrived on campus. MIT had always allowed students to choose a major without jumping through any additional hoops, but the crowding in Course VI led to talk of entrance restrictions. The crunch led Gray back to the classroom to "shame [his] colleagues":

In the middle 80s, the enrollment in electrical engineering and computer science was exploding. And it started out the decade at about 200 per class, 200, 250 per class. And by 1985 it was up to 350. And there was concern that if the trend line continued, it was going to go past 400. It was more than the department could staff and manage. And what's more it beggared all the other departments, who said, "Where are my students? They're all in EE!"

And the department at that point was desperate to get more people to teach sections. And a number of folks who were faculty members of EECS, but were also laboratory heads, were saying, "Gee, I just don't have time for that." So, I figured if I showed up and taught two sections for a couple of semesters, some other people might catch on. And they did. It made some difference.

The trend line began to turn as other departments began to offer classes in computer programming, as applied to each discipline. "That drained off some of the students that otherwise would have thought they had to be in Course VI in order to learn to be computer scientists."

Those of us who were at MIT in the 1980s were blessed to be there under a leader who remembered what it was like to be in our shoes, who understood the value of the residential community (be it fraternity, independent living group, or dorm entry) as home-away-from-home, and who, without embracing political correctness or institutional fascism, navigated societal change with MIT engineering pragmatism. May his memory be a blessing.

The TaxCutsNow bus tour is making a stop today, September 12, 2017, in Tulsa, from 12:50-1:20 pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel north of 81st & Lewis, just west across the street from the Mabee Center, for a rally in support of tax relief for small business owners. The tour is starting the day at a rally in Oklahoma City, then continuing east. The tour will conclude with a rally Friday at the headquarters of the IRS in Washington, D.C.

Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot, Stephen Bonner, former CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and retired NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton are among the business leaders who have signed on with the Job Creators Network, which advocates for relief from taxes and regulations that inhibit the creation and growth of small businesses.

The Oklahoma bus stops and rallies are sponsored by Job Creators Network, Freedom Works, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma.

I'm late this year taking time to remember the Islamist attacks on America and the husbands and wives, sons and daughters who died that day and in the years since in the pursuit of the evil movement that perpetrated the attacks. My thoughts have been occupied much of the day with friends and places that were under threat from Hurricane Irma and with duties of home and work.

I begin by re-reading Tom Junod's story in Esquire from last year: "The Falling Man: An unforgettable story." It is the story of the famous photograph of a man who has jumped or fallen from the World Trade Center, plunging headlong, vertically through the air, paralleling the vertical lines of the two towers. Junod pursues the photographer (who also photographed the dying Robert F. Kennedy, the photographs, and the mystery of the identity of the man in the photograph.

...the only certainty we have is the certainty we had at the start: At fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a man falling through the sky--falling through time as well as through space. The picture went all around the world, and then disappeared, as if we willed it away. One of the most famous photographs in human history became an unmarked grave, and the man buried inside its frame--the Falling Man--became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen. Richard Drew's photograph is all we know of him, and yet all we know of him becomes a measure of what we know of ourselves. The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment.

That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.

Please take a moment to remember Jayesh Shah, a Tulsa Memorial High School and University of Tulsa alumnus, who died in the North Tower. Say a prayer for Jay's family, who still deeply miss their brother, son, husband, and father. This 2002 story from the Houston Chronicle tells about Jay's family and their desperate search through the streets of New York for hopeful news that never came. In 2006, the Shah family presented a memorial flag, made up of the names of those who died, to the children's elementary school in Katy, Texas. Last year, Sonia, Jay's oldest daughter and then a senior at Baylor University, spoke to the Associated Press about how the death of her father has motivated her to serve refugees.

Bookworm Room remembers Rick Rescorla, head of security of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, who anticipated another attack after the 1993 bombing, relentlessly drilled employees in evacuation procedures, and on the day, guided the 2,700 workers to safety, losing only six, including himself and two members of his team, who went back in the building one last time to make sure they had everyone out. Powerline has a tribute to Rick Rescorla, with more about his earlier life as a soldier in Vietnam and links to other tributes.

Last year, theologian Ravi Zacharias considered the stories of rescue and loss and asks, "Where was God?" As a prologue, he wrote:

As some would continue to perpetrate the myth of progress, we live on this fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 under the cloud of a world dramatically changed since that terrible day. Anyone who travels sees and feels what a murderous ideology has done to our world. May we never forget what happened and ever be in pursuit of wisdom and courage to deal with those whose philosophy thrives on hate. Our prayers are for the families that lost a loved one and with gratitude for those who came to the rescue.

Civilization is always threatened by ideologues who embrace the moment and lose sight of the essential value of every human life. Answers will only be found in embracing the God of love and living by his precepts. Loving God and our fellow human beings are the two laws on which all other laws stand. May God guide our leaders. The Scriptures call us to understand the times and know what to do (see 1 Chronicles 12:32). May we be faithful.

Earlier this year, Yahya Cholil Staquf, the head of the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, the country with the largest population of Muslims, told an interviewer that the West needs to acknowledge the connection between orthodox Islam and violence:

Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam. There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terrorism, and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy. So long as we lack consensus regarding this matter, we cannot gain victory over fundamentalist violence within Islam.

Radical Islamic movements are nothing new. They've appeared again and again throughout our own history in Indonesia. The West must stop ascribing any and all discussion of these issues to "Islamophobia." Or do people want to accuse me -- an Islamic scholar -- of being an Islamophobe too?...

Too many Muslims view civilization, and the peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths, as something they must combat. Many Europeans can sense this attitude among Muslims.

There's a growing dissatisfaction in the West with respect to Muslim minorities, a growing fear of Islam. In this sense, some Western friends of mine are "Islamophobic." They're afraid of Islam. To be honest, I understand their fear ... The West cannot force Muslims to adopt a moderate interpretation of Islam. But Western politicians should stop telling us that fundamentalism and violence have nothing to do with traditional Islam. That is simply wrong.


The ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11 told the story of the events, beginning with the 1993 World Trade Center attack, that led to the 9/11/2001 attack. Because it put certain American politicians in a bad light, it has not been rebroadcast in the US, and the original version is hard to find, but not impossible for the tech savvy. You can watch a documentary about the political pressure that led to the censorship of the mini-series, "Blocking the Path to 9/11," on the Internet Archive.

The Telegraph: 9/11: How the drama unfolded aboard Air Force One, inside the White House bunker and at the Pentagon

Video / audio from the day:

FAA, American Airlines, & NORAD real-time audio as air traffic controllers, airline officials, and military officials became aware of and responded to the attacks.
WNBC live coverage
Fox 5 live coverage
CNN live coverage

Footage from Hoboken, N.J., on 9/11: "Footage from September 3rd and 11th 2001 in Hoboken, NJ by Bruce Miller, Brad Miller, and Michael Frank and in Manhattan on September 19, 2001 by Bruce Miller. And some subsequent footage I shot during the 6-month Tribute in Light and Fleet Week 2002." Hoboken is directly across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan.

Some personal recollections of the day:

A year after the attacks, an exhibit of photos showing the aftermath, recovery efforts, and the indomitable spirit of New Yorkers toured the nation and is still online: Here Is New York.

Here Is New York has added a site called Voices of 9/11, video interviews with 500 eyewitnesses, recorded in 2002 and 2003.

New York singer/songwriter Beth Sorrentino wrote this song, "Beautiful Day," a week after the attacks. "It's a reflection and narrative of the events of that day and people I knew who were there, and worrying about their safety."

Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer offers his account of 9/11 with President Bush aboard Air Force One, and the threat that the president's plane might itself be compromised by terrorists.

In 2009, HotAir blogger Allahpundit tweeted his memories of the day. He lived in downtown Manhattan, not far from the World Trade Center.

Ron Coleman was in midtown Manhattan when the planes hit. He writes of the confusion of the day and his journey, by foot and ferry, back to his home in New Jersey.

Gerard Vanderleun was watching from Brooklyn Heights when the towers fell, recording his observations online: "Lower span of Brooklyn Bridge jammed with people walking out of the city, many covered with white ash. Ghosts. The Living Dead. BQE empty except for convoys of emergency vehicles."

Here is Robert N. Going's diary of four weeks as a volunteer in a respite center at Ground Zero.

My personal recollection of the day and the weeks that followed, including the memorial service for Jayesh Shah, a Memorial High School and University of Tulsa alumnus who had died in the North Tower.

Rusty Weiss says, "9/11 saved my life," shocking him out of complacency as a responsibility-shirking young man.

Robert Spencer lists ten things we should have done since 9/11 to defeat Islamism, but we haven't because of political correctness. Number 4 rings a bell:

It is remarkable that thirteen years after 9/11, not a single mosque or Islamic school in the U.S. has any organized program to teach Muslims why the al-Qaeda/Islamic State understanding of Islam is wrong and should be rejected. Yet they ostensibly reject this view of Islam, so why don't such programs exist? Even more remarkable than their absence is the fact that no government or law enforcement authorities are calling upon Muslims to implement them.

Such programs must be instituted, and made transparent and open to inspection, so as to ensure their sincerity and thoroughness.

Tulsans know what happens when a Muslim does speak out and explain that Islamists aren't good Muslims.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court voted unanimously today to allow Tulsa residents to move forward with a lawsuit against the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority over the proposed sale of part of Helmerich Park to a private developer. Here is a statement from Save Helmerich Park, the citizen group opposing the sale of park land:

The Oklahoma Supreme Court today denied the City of Tulsa's and the Tulsa Public Facility Authority's request for the Court to assume original jurisdiction in the pending lawsuit to stop the sale of land in Helmerich Park to a private developer.

The Court's decision was unanimous. The City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority (TPFA) had escalated their efforts to bar Tulsa citizens' access to the Courthouse contrary to Article II, § 6 of the Oklahoma Constitution which provides: "The courts of justice of the State shall be open to every person, and speedy and certain remedy afforded for every wrong and for every injury to person, property, or reputation; and right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial, delay, or prejudice."

By filing a Writ of Prohibition with the Oklahoma State Supreme Court, the City and the TPFA directly challenged Tulsa District Court Judge Jefferson D. Sellers' decision to deny a motion to dismiss the suit filed by Tulsan Craig Immel on August 11, 2015, which was amended and joined by four other Tulsans in January 2016.

For a year and a half, attorneys for the City and the TPFA agreed that Tulsa County District Court was the proper place to hear this controversy and agreed the plaintiffs were proper parties to bring the lawsuit to prevent the sale of land in Helmerich Park. But at the eleventh hour - apparently anticipating a loss in District Court - the Mayor and the TPFA directed their attorneys to reverse course and sought to prevent Tulsa citizens and taxpayers from having a say in the proposed sale of publicly-owned parkland and the potential misappropriation of city tax dollars.

The plaintiffs are resolute in their position, presented a vigorous written and oral response to the City's attempt to deny citizens and taxpayers access to the court system.

The lawsuit now returns to the jurisdiction of District Court Judge Jefferson Sellers for trial.
Speaking on behalf of the plaintiffs, former Tulsa Mayor Terry Young expressed pleasure with the decision.

"We're prepared to fight this in District Court and we believe we have the winning arguments," Young said.

Young added, "It's time for the Dallas-based developer - UCR - to withdraw from the sale contract and go home."

UTW Michael Bates cover storyNot long after the demise of Urban Tulsa Weekly, its online archive went dark. Because of the structure of the website, many of its stories were never crawled by the Internet Archive. My attempt a couple of years ago to raise the $1200 needed to put the archive back online failed by a wide margin. (Gyrosite still has the archive and, last I checked, could still resurrect it, if anyone has the money and interest to do so.)

As a freelancer, I retained copyright to the columns and feature stories I submitted to UTW. In fact, it was my refusal to sign a new freelancers' agreement with the paper, in which anything a freelancer submitted would be work-for-hire -- owned by the paper, with no rights retained by the creator -- that led to the end of my column after 3 years and 9 months. As I wrote at the time, "What if UTW is sold to a chain of weeklies or goes out of business? (God forbid on both hypotheticals.) Those possibilities seem very remote today, but a lot can happen in 10 or 20 years, and if they happened, who would own the rights to my work under the agreement? Would I be able to get permission to use my own work? Who knows? At the very least, I would want to continue to retain enough rights for anything I write to be able to keep it accessible on the web." As it happened, it only took a little over four years for one of those hypotheticals to come to pass.

I made sure to keep the pre-edited versions of all my stories, as I submitted them. As I have occasion and time, I am posting my columns, as submitted, in this UTW Column Archive category here on BatesLine. As of September 10, 2017, I have about 20% of what I wrote posted. At some point, perhaps, I'll get the rest of them online, along with an index.

Preaching to the choir

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I was involved in a vigorous, in-person discussion the other night over the Nashville Statement. While everyone involved professed agreement with the historic Christian views of sexuality and sexual identity, some felt that the timing was poor, in the wake of the Hurricane Harvey catastrophe. Others couldn't see the point of a statement that would not persuade someone who was not already convinced of the Biblical position. I defended the statement, which I have signed, saying that Christian young people need to hear a clear restatement of Biblical truth on these issues, crafted to address the particular points of attack being used against Biblical truth, because otherwise young people are only hearing attacks on the Christian position with no responses. Sometimes, I said, the choir needs preaching to.

This entry isn't intended to get into the specifics of the Nashville Statement, but rather to defend the notion of speaking out when you have no reasonable expectation of swaying large numbers of people to your view.

Julia Galef posted four reasons to Twitter recently in response to those who ask why she bothers "arguing with people online, since I'm never going to get them to change their minds." It seems to me that the first and second are particularly applicable to the debate over the value of the Nashville Statement.

Reasons it can be worthwhile to argue with people on the internet, even if you have no hope of changing their minds:
  1. To change the minds of less-committed onlookers
  2. To give relief and comfort to onlookers who share your view and wish someone would stick up for it
  3. To set an example of "sharing one's opinion even if it's controversial," a value norm to reinforce even if you don't change anyone's mind on that particular issue
  4. To set an example of "polite and reasonable argumentation," again a valuable norm in its own right

I would add a fifth reason: To build toleration for your view. Friends of yours who disagree will learn that your view is held not just by strange people they see protesting on the news, but by someone they know and respect. Even if they still strongly disagree with your view, they will be less likely to cast someone who holds it beyond the pale of polite company, because they don't want to cast a friend -- you -- beyond the pale of polite company.

Now, this does not always work. I can think of a few "friends" I've lost because my views on social issues. But in general, it can help to shift the "Overton Window" in the direction of your perspective, which can encourage your allies to speak out, which ultimately can move your view from beyond the pale to controversial but tolerable to conventional wisdom.

I have some experience with this. When I got involved with city zoning issues almost 20 years ago, there weren't many people in Tulsa who thought about, much less supported, ideas like protecting walkability or neighborhood character with design guidelines or using small measures (Roberta Brandes Gratz's concept of "urban husbandry") to revitalize downtown. While these ideas still aren't universally applauded, they now have a significant and vocal constituency among civically engaged Tulsans.


Pastor Steven Wedgeworth writes: "Beware the cool shame. It has unexpected power over people, even those you wouldn't expect. The only way to resist it is with guns blazing."

When friends are saying things that are true but unpopular, truths that could subject them to social penalties, I want to be cheering them on and encouraging others to do the same, not discouraging them from speaking out.

Tulsa, north of downtown, aerial photo, 1951

Tulsa, north of downtown, satellite photo, 2014

Tulsa's Near Northside neighborhood, whose rise and demise I documented in a 2014 story for This Land Press ("Steps to Nowhere"), is part of an area that will be the subject of the Unity Heritage Neighborhoods Design Workshop, next week, September 11-15, 2017, led by urban design students from Notre Dame:

The University of Notre Dame Graduate Urban Design Studio will be traveling to Tulsa to work with our community to provide positive visions for future development. The studio will be conducting a 3-month design study focused on the Unity Heritage Neighborhoods located immediately north of downtown. The study broadly encompasses areas such as the Brady Heights Historic District, Emerson Elementary, Greenwood, and the Evans-Fintube site. To kick-off this effort, the studio will be conducting a week-long design workshop from September 11th - 15th to meet with the local community, to hear our thoughts for the area, and to begin envisioning the possibilities with us through a series of visual urban and architectural designs. Come on out and imagine the future together!

The workshop includes three events for public input and feedback. All are free and open to the public, but RSVPs would be appreciated. The links below will take you to the registration page for each event.

Workshop Introduction & Initial Community Input: Monday, September 11th, 2017, 6-8pm, at 36 Degrees North, 36 E. Cameron St. (That's just east of Main on Cameron in the Brady Bob Wills Arts District.)

Meet the team. Hear about the components necessary for making vibrant, walkable, mixed-use, diverse, and inclusive cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Share your vision and desires for the area.

Mid-Week Design Presentation & Initial Feedback: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017, 6-8pm, at the Greenwood Cultural Center:

Check out the in-process urban and architectural designs and provide feedback for the students to work on to further shape the vision.

End-of-Workshop Design Presentation & Feedback: Friday, September 15th, 6-8pm, at Central Library:

See the final designs from the week and provide your thoughts and feedback for the students to continue to work on during the remainder of their study. The studio will return to Tulsa in December to present their final designs and findings for the community to use as an ongoing resource.

MORE: Here's my Flickr set of images of Tulsa's lost Near Northside.

Dont_Believe_Liberal_Media.jpgIf you're wondering why people believe the mainstream news media is more interested in pushing a narrative rather than reporting the facts, I've got a story for you. If you want to know why you shouldn't trust a mainstream news outlet to give you multiple reasoned perspectives on a complex public-policy issue, read on.

On Tuesday, August 29, 2017, I was quoted in a story about Oklahoma's recent budget problems which ran on the website of the Guardian, Britain's leading leftist newspaper.

The author, Russell Cobb, a native of Oklahoma and now a professor of modern languages and cultural studies in Canada, had been commissioned to write the piece a few months ago and reached out to me via email in late June for my thoughts on the issue. The article is part of a series funded by The Rockefeller Foundation. Cobb is writing a book with the working title, You Dumb Okie: Race, Class, and Lies in Flyover Country. (Had I known about this, I may not have been inclined to help him out.)

(I do find it amusing that my most recent appearances to talk about politics on the radio and in the press were both for overseas media outlets -- the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Guardian, respectively -- and both of them left-of-center, to boot. It reminds me of Tony Hancock's line in the episode "The Radio Ham": "It's opened up completely new horizons for me. Look at this! Friends from all over the world! None in this country, but all over the world." I was on KVWO 94.7 -- the Voice of Welch, Oklahoma -- to talk about Bob Wills on his 112th birthday back in March.)

When Cobb first contacted me, he wrote that he had "many left-of-center voices in the piece blaming tax cuts and the oil and gas industry" and that he "really need[ed] smart conservative voices" for his article. He asked if I'd be willing to talk to him and if there was anyone else he should contact. Here's my reply:

A couple of other sources worth your time:

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs ( is an excellent source for the other side of the budget story. For years, they have been proposing solutions to reduce educational administrative bloat, cut unneeded programs in other areas of state government, and focus educational spending on the classroom. For the most part, legislative leaders, fearful of still-powerful lobbyists representing school boards, school administrators, and public employee unions, have failed to act on these ideas. Jonathan Small (OCPA president), Brandon Dutcher, and Trent England would all have some informative things to say on the topic and could point you to specific studies they've done.

State Rep. Jason Murphey is one of the smartest people in state government. His background is in information technology, and he's devoted much of his legislative career to consolidating and streamlining state government's computer systems to help state employees better serve the public. He has a blog at, where he has analyzed the budget crisis and this most recent legislative session.

Some topics to explore, off the top of my head:

  • Skyrocketing growth in non-classroom personnel
  • Large number of small school districts
  • Duplication in higher education, too many colleges, too many campuses, too many independent administrations (where ex-politicians find a second career as college presidents), too much overlap between the offerings of universities, community colleges, and vocational-technical schools. We need a College Realignment and Closure Commission -- the sort of process used successfully at the Federal level to close unneeded military bases.
  • Tendency of left-wing voices to focus solely on state appropriations and to ignore other significant sources of revenue, such as local property tax, in the complete picture of how Oklahomans fund education. Fixed property tax levies fund operations of K-12 schools, community colleges (e.g. TCC, Rose State), and vocational-technical schools (e.g. Tulsa Technology Center). Additional property tax is levied to repay construction bonds for school facilities.
  • Revenue sources that are earmarked by the State Constitution or by statute, which means certain agencies of government are overfunded, but those excess funds cannot be reallocated to agencies in need.
  • Internal strife in the Republican legislative caucuses and the influence of the state, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa Chambers of Commerce.

Shoot me some questions if any of these facets interest you.

Cobb wrote back: "Thank you so much. I'll be in touch soon with more specific questions. This is very helpful."

A couple of days later, I heard from Cobb again, saying he'd read "quite a bit of the references" I had sent him and indicated it was helping him to understand the arguments over issues like the gross production tax, which, he gathered from what he'd read, would not fix Oklahoma's budget mess. Then he posed a specific question:

"I'm interested in your take on a provocative thesis someone ran by me: Oklahoma, with its rising social inequalities, reliance on incarceration as a way of dealing with mental health issues, its continuing crisis in dealing with Medicaid and disabilities, plus the education crisis, was becoming a failing state in political science terms. What's your reaction to that thesis?"

Here's what I wrote in reply:

"Failing state" is a hysterical and overwrought label to apply to the State of Oklahoma's current funding dilemmas. This is not Somalia or Venezuela. As you drive through our state, you will not be caught in the crossfire between the armies of rival warlords. A barge hauling wheat from the Port of Catoosa to the Gulf of Mexico is not going to be boarded by pirates as it passes Muskogee. State government employees continue to do their jobs as before. New roads are being built, old roads are being repaired. Tulsa Community College has enough tax money to fund full scholarships for local students with at least a mediocre high school academic record. How bad off can we be if Oklahoma can still afford to give a "Quality Jobs" tax credit to billionaire NBA owners?

If you want to find a fiscally failing state, look to Illinois: Two years (and likely a third) without a budget, massive unfunded liabilities, unable to pay its current bills -- the result of decades of the Blue State model of high taxes, high levels of regulation, and purchasing the loyalty of public-employee unions with more jobs and bigger pensions that will never be fully funded. Connecticut and New Jersey face similar crises, and they serve as examples that raising taxes only digs a deeper hole: Government grows to spend the extra revenue; the promised spending cuts never materialize; higher taxes stunt economic growth.

Oklahoma's current dilemma proves that, whether union-label Democrats or crony-capitalist Republicans run the government, public choice theory holds true: In politics, concentrated benefit trumps diffuse cost. Barring a grassroots miracle, a state's governor and legislative leaders will be those politicians most easily swayed by the special interests who come to the State Capitol bearing gifts in exchange for government-given financial advantage, be they public-employee unions looking for a raise, superintendents of tiny school districts hoping to dodge consolidation, or oil barons and wind tycoons looking for targeted tax credits. Pliable legislators get contributions for themselves and their PACs, with which they win the loyalty of their colleagues in the caucus room.

With this sort of leadership, if it can be called leadership, state spending will rise to match rising revenues, because the Ado Annies on Capitol Hill just cain't say no. Concentrated benefit trumps diffuse cost. The profligate spending only makes the cuts all the more painful when revenues fall, as they always do. Oklahoma would be in much deeper trouble were it not for the constitutionally mandated "rainy-day fund" that sequesters some of the financial windfall in good years.

Oklahoma needs a new governor and new legislative leaders willing to eliminate the revenue earmarks that keep taxpayer dollars from flowing where they're most needed, to eliminate duplication in our colleges and career technology centers, to eliminate tax credits that do nothing for economic growth, to eliminate administrative bloat and the regulations that create it. Every one of those necessary steps will threaten some group's concentrated benefit. Persisting with necessary reform in the face of the resulting resistance will require principled courage, a quality scarce amongst the crony-capitalists currently running the state or the big-government tax-hikers who want to replace them.

Happy to answer more questions if you've got them.

Cobb wrote back later that day, thanking me: "This is very compelling." He asked me for a short self-description, which I supplied, thanking him for reaching out.

On Tuesday, Cobb emailed to tell me that the story was up. "Thanks for your time and effort in helping me tell this story. Even if you don't agree with it's conclusions I hope it leads to a productive conversation."

Here's the part of the story that mentions me:

Of course, many would not recognize their state in this description. One of the most respected bloggers in Tulsa, Michael Bates, said the whole idea of Oklahoma as a failing state was "hysterical and overwrought".

After all, downtown Tulsa and Oklahoma City are thriving. The cities have been rated by Kiplinger among the "best cities in America to start a business". Tulsa has rolling hills, parks and delicious barbecue: Tulsa People enumerates the city's private schools. Affordable housing prices are the envy of the nation and suburban school districts boast gleaming new facilities. And yes, some conservatives think the four-day week is good for "traditional" families, allowing for more time with the kids. For affluent families, the extra day can be spent on college prep or sports. But for middle- and working- class parents, it means lost wages or added expenses for childcare.

You'll notice that, while my description of the "failing state" label was included, my reasons for that description (which I thought were vividly and cogently expressed and which Cobb described as "very compelling") were excluded in favor of facile, unattributed comments which have no connection to anything I wrote. The introductory phrase of the second paragraph, "After all," could easily lead a reader to assume that it was a continuation and elaboration of my assessment in the previous paragraph.

Beyond these two paragraphs, the story fails to give any ink to what other conservative critics have written about the state's fiscal problems.


I feel like I was stabbed in the back. I believed that Cobb's request for my perspective was in good faith, and I answered in good faith. Not only was my detailed reply whittled down to one short phrase, the phrase was embedded in a context that does not reflect my thinking and may give readers the impression that I am unreflective and uncaring about Oklahoma's budget problems.

Tuesday afternoon, I emailed Russell Cobb and asked him about the way my quote was framed and about the absence in his story of the "smart conservative voices" he said he needed. I had been waiting for his reply before publishing this, but as it's been over 48 hours and I haven't heard from him, I've decided to go ahead and publish this story. I have to assume that it was his editorial decision and not the Guardian's. I will be filing a request for clarification with the Guardian's ombudsman and will let you know if they respond.


A Tumblr account called Grauniad Highlights tracks the odd topics that the newspaper chooses to pursue.


The Guardian was tagged with the mocking anagram Grauniad by Private Eye, the satirical British news magazine, because of the paper's frequent spelling mistakes and typographical errors. I rather like the name. It sounds like the name of a failed attempt at epic poetry by one of ancient Greece's lesser poetasters.

Tulsa native and newsman Loren Cosby shared with me a couple of interesting anecdotes involving Jerry Lewis's appearance at a Tulsa golf tournament, and he gave me permission to share them with you.


The Roy Clark Celebrity Golf Classic had a nine-year run at Cedar Ridge Country Club from 1975 to 1983, raising money for Children's Medical Center through ticket sales to the golf tournament, amateur golfers paying for the right to play alongside the stars, and ticket sales to the variety show at the Mabee Center. This Daily Oklahoman story describes what turned out to be the final edition of the tournament:

More than 60 celebrities from the world of entertainment and sports will be participating in the 9th Annual Roy Clark Celebrity Golf Classic, next Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17 and 18, in Tulsa.

In addition to hosting the golf tournament, Clark will headline the annual StarNight Show Saturday evening at Oral Roberts University Mabee Center. Other headliners for StarNight will include the Gatlin Brothers, the Osmond Brothers and Kay Starr. The comedy team of Williams and Ree will round out the program with George Lindsey as emcee. Tickets are on sale at Carson Attraction outlets including the John A. Brown stores....

Golf celebrities include actor Claude Akins, cowboy star Rex Allen, Hollywood columnist James Bacon, actor Ernest Borgnine, singer Jimmy Dean, actor Ron Ely, former astronaut Capt. Ron Evans, TV soap series actor Tom Hallick, Emmy award winner Arte Johnson, singer Trini Lopez, actor Fred MacMurray, former baseball outfielder Roger Maris, actors Tim Matheson, Donald May, Doug McClure, Darren McGavin and Martin Milner to name a few.

The late '70s and early '80s might be called Tulsa's Silver Age, at least in terms of prominence and prosperity. Oil money was flowing, and new buildings were going up downtown. Tulsa musicians like Leon Russell and David Gates were at the top of the pop charts, and the local music scene was drawing the likes of Eric Clapton and George Harrison to town. Unique, locally produced programming dominated the airwaves: KTUL's Oil in Oklahoma, the John Chick Show, Mazeppa Pompazoidi's Uncanny Film Festival, Uncle Zeb's Cartoon Camp, and meteorologists who used a cartoon character (Don Woods and Gusty on KTUL) or a lion puppet (Lee Woodward and King Lionel on KOTV) to tell us about the weather. Tulsa radio had local news and sports talk shows; network programming like the Larry King Show was relegated to the graveyard shift.

And it was during this period that Roy Clark, with the encouragement of his agent, impresario Jim Halsey ("Tulsa's Titan of Country Talent" according to a 1979 Chicago Tribune feature story), made Tulsa his home base and began to get involved in the community, drawing his celebrity friends to come to Tulsa and help.


Loren Cosby, then in his pre-teen and teenage years, attended many of the tournaments. His mother, a member of the Children's Medical Center Auxiliary, served as a driver for tournament celebrities. Cosby remembers Jerry Lewis's lone appearance at the Roy Clark tournament. His memory places it in the late '70s, around the time Lewis was collaborating with Oral Roberts on his prime time TV specials.

I worked cleaning golf clubs. Picture this: I'm standing on grass near the clubhouse garage near the arrival driveway. First tee is about 1/4 football field from the driveway. Mom and others drove celebs in Dean Bailey Oldsmobile Skylarks between the hotel and the course. Except Jerry Lewis.

I hear multiple sirens around 8 a.m. Four Tulsa Police Department motorcycle cops and two TPD cars, sirens blaring, deliver Jerry Lewis to the driveway in his limo. Lewis gets out -- the sidewalk is roped off. Lewis struts down the sidewalk, ignoring a group of about thirty Children's Medical Center kids, talks with either John Erling or Lee Woodward.

(KOTV meteorologist Lee Woodward and KRMG morning man John Erling served as first-tee announcers for the tournament.)

Shortly thereafter, an even bigger star of stage and screen makes a more modest entrance.

Twenty minutes later -- my view of the driveway obscured by a low tree branch -- reveals a Skylark pulling up quietly. A door swings open, a guy putting on golf shoes, nobody paying attention but me. It's Bob Hope. No pomp. Channel 8's Rea Blakey walks toward him with cue card for a public service announcement for Tulsa Red Cross. People still don't realize Hope is there as the Jerry Lewis carnival was just winding down. Mom said it was the first and last time they invited Lewis because he was a jerk.

Cosby recalls, "The only year Jerry was there, he did the typewriter bit in the Star Night Show at the Mabee Center, then Hope did his act and as always Roy closed it and played Malagueña."

But about 20 years later, Lewis himself had mellowed somewhat, at least according to a story that Cosby heard from some family friends who encountered Lewis in New York City, after a performance of Damn Yankees on Broadway:

After the show, they ran into Jerry Lewis, who was leaving the theater from a side alley entrance by himself. They said they enjoyed the show. He spent 25 minutes asking them questions about the show, real nice, said he loved Tulsa and Oral Roberts was a friend.

Cosby says he could have written a book about being a kid hanging around at the Roy Clark celebrity tournaments.

Dinner with just me and Evel Knievel at the Williams Plaza Hotel. Getting together with June Haver and Fred MacMurray every year they were here. Eating at MacMurray's table during the sponsor/celebrity dinner. Walking from MacMurray's room to Bob Hope's room in Gerald Ford's presidential suite at the Sheraton Skyline East. Danny Thomas in a suit at 6:30am bringing boxes of donuts to volunteers at Williams Plaza. Riding on the back of Alan Hale's golf cart. Hanging out with Martin Milner at Star Night and getting scolded in a fatherly way by him for acting like Jerry Lewis without the credentials! Talking with Frank Cady and Charles Lane. While interning with KRMG, asking James MacArthur a question about his mom out on the golf course and getting yelled at by him: "Is this interview about me or Helen Hayes?" I was all of 15. Walking Cedar Ridge with Alvy Moore. Also walking Cedar Ridge with my mom and Roger Maris. Clint Howard borrowed Mom's car one evening while a bunch of volunteers were in the Sheraton bar/restaurant with Claude Akins and others. James Garner was in the program almost every year, and I was always disappointed when he never showed. It goes on and on.

MORE: Tulsa TV Memories is the pre-eminent online resource documenting Tulsa's golden '70s and early '80s, both on and off the air, through the memories of on-air personalities, behind-the-scenes crew, and ordinary listeners and viewers. I found a few reminiscences about Jerry Lewis's appearances in Tulsa. Lowell Burch remembered his time as a student at ORU: "The TV equipment was as good as any they had in Burbank at the time and the celebrities occupied the campus like a Hollywood backlot. Stars like Johnny Cash, Pearl Bailey, Jerry Lewis, and Doc Severinson (just to name a few) would show up on campus on a regular basis to do Oral's shows." Mike Bruchas relayed a friend's story of Jerry Lewis showing up in a limo at Sound Unlimited in search of an adapter for his boombox, and the anecdote is accompanied by an ad for an Oral Roberts Christmas Special starring Jerry Lewis and characters from Sid and Marty Krofft's Saturday morning TV shows. Lewis was a visiting lecturer at ORU in the late '70s. DolfanBob remembers going to one of the Roy Clark tournament Star Nights and seeing "Jerry Lewis, Ben Johnson, and Adrienne Barbeau, who did a Belly Dance." (Important use of the Oxford comma there.)

If you encountered Jerry Lewis in Tulsa or had brushes with greatness at the Roy Clark Celebrity Golf Classic, drop me a line at blog at batesline dot com. I'd love to share your stories here.


Jerry Lewis's typewriter bit from Who's Minding the Store:

Roy Clark plays Malagueña on an episode of The Odd Couple:

KVWO Welch benefit dance

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This Friday, August 25, 2017, there will be a western swing dance benefitting a small-town, non-profit radio station, KVWO 94.7, the Voice of Welch, Oklahoma.


KVWO's "Dance 'Til Your Stockings Are Hot and Unraveling" fundraiser will be held in the Welch Civic Auditorium, running from 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm. Dewayne Bowman & the Swingin' West Band and the A-Bar Bunkhouse Band will headline the event -- both bands are donating their performances for the cause. Advance online tickets are $10 for adults and teens, $7.50 for kids 12 and under; tickets at the door are $12 for adults and teens, $9 for kids 12 and under. Doors open at 7.


The goal is to raise $10,000 to build a transmitter tower for the station. Since going on the air last year, the station has shared a tower, using a digital wireless connection to send audio from the studios to the transmitter.

Our own tower means that we can maximize our licensed height and power allowances. Having our own tower should also allow us to become independednt of the internet to put our signal on the air. That means as little downtime as is possible, especially in times of severe weather.

Additionally, our own tower means we'll be able to triple our current power output. Combined with raising our antenna to the maximum allowed height, this power increase should help us penetrate as far as Vinita, Miami, and Chetopa, if not beyond. That means better over-the-air reception for more people who'll have local news and information, as well as severe weather coverage and emergency information and instructions, as close as their nearest radio and completely free of charge.

KVWO is the culmination of a long-time dream for Welch native Tyson Wynn, who wanted to provide a community-based media outlet for his hometown. Wynn got his broadcasting start as a high school student on Vinita station KITO, but these days that station is a repeater for a big-city station. In 2009, Wynn launched as the local online newspaper. In 2014, he successfully applied for an FCC license to operate a low-power FM station, but it wasn't until early this year that he was able to get the station on the air.

One of his early features was livestreaming audio on the website for Welch High School sporting events. Now those sporting events go out over the airwaves, reaching anyone in northern Craig County with an FM radio. (If you're outside the Welch metropolitan area, the station is streamed live on

Off-air, Wynn also serves as the pastor of Living Hope Baptist Church in Welch. He also works with his wife, Jeane Wynn, through their firm Wynn-Wynn Media, providing publicity services for numerous well-known Christian authors and publishers. The couple co-hosts a daily talk show on the station.

In addition to local news, the station plays a blend of musical genres that Wynn calls "countrypolitan," saying of the local population, "We're country music, western swing, red dirt, classic rock, cowboy music, Americana, folk, rockabilly, standards-loving people." Back in March, I had the pleasure of being on the air with the Wynns to talk about the musical heritage of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

If you like western swing music, community-supported media, or both, make the 80-minute drive from Tulsa to Welch this Friday night. Welch is about 20 miles north of the Vinita exit on the Will Rogers Turnpike on US 59.

KVWO is owned by a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and if you can't be at the dance but would like to support the station, your contribution would be gratefully received and tax-deductible.

On the occasion of the death of Jerry Lewis, Harry Shearer has posted his contemporaneous feature story about the 1976 Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. That was the year that, during a live appearance by Frank Sinatra, Lewis was reunited with his old partner in comedy, singer Dean Martin. The 11 MB 16-page PDF scan of the article obscures the name of the publication, and I don't recognize the style. (Esquire, maybe?)

The telethon was a fixture of my childhood. 1970 was the first year I remember watching, while visiting my great aunt and uncle at their trailer house on Grand Lake for Labor Day. It was fascinating to watch the tote board spinning ever higher and to see all the big stars of the day on one great big variety show.

There's a Tulsa connection in Shearer's story. Oral Roberts made an appearance on the '76 telethon, presenting a check for funds collected from the ORU student body.


Aside from Jerry [Lewis] and [comedian] Jan [Murray], this is a very non-Jewish show. Jerry's kid-adult tug of war is also a contest between the Jew he is and the Christian he's becoming. So his office door in Century City bears a plaque that says "Super Jew." On the other hand, there is this blossoming relationship with Oral Roberts.

Oral Roberts was the first nationally-telecast faith healer, and he used to lay on hands and transmit through them the healing power of the Lord. But Oral has now classed up his act considerably. The announcer on his weekly television show introduces him as "author-educator-evangelist Oral Roberts." And he's become the benefactor of a charity that supports medical science. Look, Lord -- no hands.

Last year Oral made his first appearance on the Telethon on behalf of Oral Roberts University, a major power in both spirit and basketball. Then Jerry and his wife Patti made an extremely rare joint appearance last spring on an hour-long prime-time Oral Roberts special. Jerry did parts of his nightclub act, leaving out the rash bit, and then he and Patti chatted with Oral about life.

Now Oral has brought his whole revue to Vegas: Richard and Patti Roberts, the World Action Singers and the Ron Huff Orchestra on a pre-recorded track, and the Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, Cloggers. This act could headline at Knott's Berry Farm, it's that polished. Then Jerry introduces Roberts as "a true gentleman and one of God's chosen people," and Oral takes center stage.

"I said to the students at Oral Roberts University, 'Think of your love for crippled children. Think of your love for Jerry Lewis. Think of your love for God.'" Not bad. Second place -- behind the Deity, ahead of the kids. Oral gives Jerry a hefty check from the students at ORU. Som eof Lou Brown's musicians start whispering behind the curtain during the Oration. Jerry shushes them. "I pray," Oral finishes up, "that every friend and every partner of the Oral Roberts ministry will step to the phone right now. God bless you, Jerry."

As Oral strides purposefully out of the Space Center, Jerry tries to explain to the Jews watching what their boy has gotten into. "It gives you a strange kind of strength to know Oral Roberts. I think it's just because basically he's a nice man, and that's all we really want in life is to deal just with nice people." (A week after the Telethon, a Los Angeles station carries another prime-time Oral Roberts special, "Don't Park Here," directed by Jerry Lewis.)

That's just a tiny piece of a detailed and fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Jerry Lewis Telethon, and if you grew up in the '70s or love that era of American pop culture, you'll want to read the whole thing.

Shearer's story captures Oral Roberts at the peak of his period of mainstream respectability. ORU's campus was shiny and new. Sawdust and canvas had given way to slick TV specials that rivaled (and strongly resembled) the network variety shows of the day. Oral's kids were students at Holland Hall. He had left the Pentecostal Holiness movement, joined Boston Avenue Methodist Church, and was admitted to the ministry in the United Methodist denomination. In 1974, the ORU Titans narrowly lost the NCAA Midwest regional basketball finals to Kansas in overtime, and in the latter half of the decade, the team managed an eight-game winning streak against their crosstown rivals, the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane -- a streak that wasn't broken until Nolan Richardson's arrival at TU for the '80-'81 season.

In 1976, Oral Roberts had not yet overreached himself with the creation of the City of Faith (that announcement would come in 1977) or ORU's law school (which opened in 1979), moves that would put him at odds with Tulsa establishment figures who were benefactors of Tulsa's existing hospitals and law school.

MORE: Here's a stock photo of Evelyn and Oral Roberts with Patti and Jerry Lewis on an Oral Roberts TV special called "We the People". Also in 1976, Oral Roberts filmed a TV special at the Singing on the Mountain gospel music convention at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, directed by Jerry Lewis and featuring Richard Roberts and the World Action Singers. Jerry Lewis participated in the tribute video played at Oral Roberts's memorial service.

Jerry Lewis's other Tulsa connection: His son, Gary Lewis, had a band called the Playboys. Pianist Leon Russell (from Tulsa) and guitarist and producer Tommy Allsup (from Collinsville) were session musicians on the group's first hit, "This Diamond Ring," and in later years Tulsans Carl Radle, Tommy Tripplehorn, and Jimmy Karstein were members of the band. (Those links go to photos on the Gary Lewis and the Playboys website.)

Tulsan Sarah Kobos has another insightful essay up at the Strong Towns website, illustrated with her own photos of lousy urban design right here in our hometown. While she's willing to forgive the urban design errors of the post-World War II decades, she politely asks cities to stop making them already:

Fine. We'll add the suburban development pattern to the long list of humanity's mistakes that occurred during the latter half of the 20th century. Like feathered bangs, the Ford Pinto, or any tattoo you got before the age of 35, sometimes we err, not because of malice, but from an understandable combination of ignorance and exuberance.

The thing that really drives me crazy is the present. Now, we know better. We recognize the economic, human health, and environmental benefits of traditional building patterns. And yet, there is so much inertia built into the system, we just keep building car-centric crap like it was 1985.

While there are walkable sections of the city that benefitted from neglect when we were busy tearing down downtown and building suburban neighborhoods, they are now endangered by their own success:

In older parts of the city, walkable neighborhoods are being rediscovered and revitalized because they're interesting, human-scaled, and pleasant. People are drawn to them because they have character, and because it's nice to be able to walk to dinner or bike to meet friends for coffee. Understandably, the moment a particular neighborhood becomes popular--thanks to its historic buildings and traditional building pattern--it will attract new development. But if you're not prepared with zoning laws to enhance and support walkability, you'll get what everyone knows how to build, which is crap for cars.

If you've wondered why urban advocates are so concerned about demolition and redevelopment in downtown and midtown neighborhoods, Sarah offers a clear and simple explanation: It's easier to preserve walkability in neighborhoods that were optimized for people getting around on foot -- with smaller blocks and buildings oriented to the sidewalk -- than to try to create it in neighborhoods that were optimized for getting around in a car. Because of Tulsa's relatively young age, we never had that many walkable neighborhoods to begin with, and too many of those we had have fallen victim to urban renewal, expressway construction, and inappropriate infill development approved by our city officials.

That's why many of us have long believed we should follow in the footsteps of nearly all of our peer regional cities and institute special design-focused land-use rules in our walkable, historic commercial districts. Oklahoma City, Wichita, Little Rock, Dallas, Fort Worth, Kansas City all have design rules customized to protect walkable neighborhoods. Tulsa doesn't, in part because of the idea that chain stores and restaurants will insist on building their standard design everywhere. But anyone who has traveled around the country or around the world has seen examples of standard chains -- McDonald's, 7-Eleven, Walgreens, to name a few -- who have adapted designs to local requirements in order to have a store where there are customers they want to reach.

While our new zoning code allows for this kind of district, certain developers have fought against it tooth-and-nail, and we haven't seen any leadership in the right direction from any of our mayors. Instead, rules that were written for auto-oriented suburban commercial development govern these walkable commercial districts:

Since that time, we have gradually added requirements to our ordinances governing commercial lots: parking per square foot of building space; percent of landscaping area; maximum floor area ratios; building setbacks, prohibitions against residential uses, and many more. But every one of these requirements was created with car-oriented, suburban-style development in mind. The zoning code didn't support the old places built for people on foot, and in far too many cities, ordinances and zoning maps have still not been updated to protect these incredibly valuable assets.

While I've been pleased to see some street-oriented infill development along Cherry Street replacing auto-oriented development -- Roosevelt's (where the car wash used to be), Chipotle, CVS (replacing a convenience store) -- the requirement for a ridiculously large minimum number of parking spaces has required the removal of many homes and small apartment buildings, reducing the number of people who can live affordably within walking distance of all these amenities. The massive parking lots reduce the area's density, which also reduces its economic productivity. Generally speaking, the higher the population density (up to a point far more dense than Tulsa will ever be), the less you have to spend on infrastructure to serve a given population.

I've been hoping for some leadership at City Hall on this issue for many years, but I've long since given up holding my breath. I appreciate the efforts of Tulsans like Sarah Kobos to educate citizens with vivid examples and lively language. Maybe, someday, we'll reach critical mass and see things change.

MORE: A collection of links to past BatesLine articles on zoning generally and in support of overlay districts such as neighborhood conservation districts, urban conservation districts, and historic preservation districts.

It's a paradox: The Tulsa Drillers, our city's minor league baseball team, appear to be in the best financial shape they've ever been and setting attendance records every year. But when I've attended games in recent years, I've been surprised at the large numbers of empty seats.

Below is a draft of an article I wrote on June 23, 2013, after a visit to the ONEOK Field with my son. I've been back to the park on a number of occasions since then, and my observations stand. Last August, my son and I attended four games during the season's final stretch, during which we observed the large number of empty seats, which suggested an actual attendance -- "butts in seats" -- far below paid attendance, which would include season tickets, whether used or not. The photos below, from that June 2013 game, show far more actual attendees than I've seen at more recent games. I should mention that we haven't been to a game this year, simply because we've been otherwise occupied this summer, but we'll probably try to make a game or two before the season is over.

Today, while running errands, I listened to Jessica Dyer's "Down to Business" show on KRMG, and her guest was Jason George, Executive Vice President of the Tulsa Drillers. It was interesting to hear him talk about the shift in the club's business philosophy with the move from Driller Stadium to ONEOK Field. Although the new park has half the capacity of the old one, the team has more than doubled the size of its permanent staff and increased its seasonal staff as well.

George talked about the decision to end the tradition of Pack-the-Park Night, when free tickets were distributed through QuikTrip, Arby's, and other local sponsors, typically for poorly attended midweek games. Our habit was to pay a few bucks extra per ticket to upgrade those free general admission coupons for reserved or box seats. The full house added to the excitement of being there for the game, and I suspect concession sales went through the roof. The lines were certainly long.

I phoned in with a question, which I relayed to the producer. They had me speak to George off the air, during a commercial break. My question: What could be done to allow people who actually show up to the game to buy good seats? George told me that they couldn't resell a seat that belonged to a season ticket holder. He mentioned that there was a higher retention rate among season ticket holders than at the old park.

George's answers on and off the air, along with my in-person observations, have convinced me that the downtown version of the Tulsa Drillers are no longer about baseball fans watching future major league stars. They are about selling corporate suites and club seats to companies -- selling the skyline as a backdrop to business meetings, and oh, by the way, there are some people playing sportsball on the grassy courtyard nearby.

Most of what I wrote four years ago still holds up, except that, of course, the old park can no longer be a venue for a baseball-fan-focused alternative, thanks to the city's foolish designation of the site for the BMX headquarters before the logistics (e.g., conflicts over "pouring rights") had been ironed out. It's a shame that a beautiful ballpark, ideal for watching the game, built and improved entirely with private funds, is being dismantled in favor of a downtown park funded through taxes and misoriented for baseball.

Tulsa's ONEOK Field is a great place to hang out on a summer evening, people-watch, let your kids splash and climb, and (if you're lucky enough to have infield seats) enjoy the view of the downtown skyline as the sun sets. But as a place to watch a baseball game, it's not nearly as good as the Tulsa Drillers' old ballpark at 15th and Yale.

Friday night I took my seven-year-old son downtown to join my daughter and the church youth group watching the Tulsa Drillers against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals at ONEOK Field.

The youth group had planned to sit on the outfield lawn, but I was considering paying extra for infield seats for me and the boy, so that we could see the state of the game more clearly. When we got to the box office, that wasn't an option. Only the $5 outfield lawn seats were available, and already they were filling up.

Fans sit in the right-field lawn at ONEOK stadium to watch the Tulsa Drillers

That wasn't because the infield seats were full. It looked like at least a third, maybe even half, of the 5,000 seats in the infield were unoccupied throughout the game. Presumably these seats belonged to season ticket holders who opted not to attend that night. I have heard that there are companies that buy season tickets as a business expense for entertaining clients and as a perk for their employees; if they're not needed for that purpose on a particular night, and no employee wants them, the seats go empty.

Empty seats in the stands at ONEOK Field

This was the first game I'd watched at ONEOK Field from the outfield lawn. For other games, I'd had infield tickets from a friend -- second row back from home plate in one case, club seating at other times. (Those seats had a great view of home, but during day games they put you right in the sun. We abandoned the second-row back seats after a few innings, preferring to watch from the shade of the concourse.)

From the outfield lawn, you're 400 feet from home plate. You're scarcely above the level of the players, so you're getting a vertically compressed, cross-section view of the game -- outfielders, infielders, pitcher, catcher, batter, umpire, runners, coaches are all on the same level. The batter, catcher, and home plate umpire seem to blend in to the crowd in the seats behind them. In most stadiums, when you look in from the outfield -- the typical TV camera angle -- you see a wall behind the batter, giving you a fairly clear view.. At ONEOK Field, there are fans sitting at tables right at ground level behind the batter.

From the east half of the right field lawn, you can't see the jumbo scoreboard because of the playground and towering batter's eye screen that protects the kids' splash pad. We could see the numbers on the small scoreboard over the 1st base seats, but it took a while to make out the lettering and figure out which number was which.

Batter and catcher blend into the crowd at ONEOK Field

Back in 1987, when friends and I went made three trips to old Busch Stadium and had upper-deck outfield seats to watch the St. Louis Cardinals, we would joke that the action on the diamond was so far away that "the game was only a rumor." But at least from that vantage point we could see the movement of the runners and fielders and have an idea of what was happening. Down on the ONEOK Field lawn, we didn't have that consolation.

At the old Drillers Stadium, there really wasn't a bad seat, although that wasn't the case from the beginning. When the first outfield seating was built along the left field foul line, the seats were oriented perpendicular to the foul line, so you had to sit at a sharp angle to the bench to see home. The closest seats to the field were at least 10 feet up. Owner Went Hubbard reoriented the left field seating and built right field seating angled to face the infield. He also dropped the box seats from their lofty perch to a more reasonable height above the field. The orientation of the park allowed the shadows to begin to shade the stands early in the evening. The results were great for watching baseball.

The downtown stadium backers said our old ballpark was too big at 10,950 seats. We needed a smaller, more intimate stadium so that it would feel full most of the time, they said. But how intimate can it feel when half of the seats are empty?

The Drillers should consider some measures that protect season ticket holders, but at the same time fill up the infield seats whenever possible (and as a bonus, make more money).

Since barcode scanners are used to scan every ticket each game, somewhere there's a computer that knows exactly which seats have already been claimed that game. That makes it possible to fill the infield stands without chaos.

The Drillers could offer season ticket holders a credit for notifying the Drillers and releasing their seats when they won't be used. Go to the website or the mobile app, click a button, and the Drillers can credit your account and resell the seat to someone who will actually use it that night.

The Drillers could offer seating upgrades after the third inning; ticket holders in the park could pay to upgrade to any unclaimed seat. Season ticket holders who are running late could notify the Drillers via the web or a mobile app not to release their seats.

As an alternative, maybe someone could bring an independent minor league team to play at the old park. The American Association of Independent Professional Baseball has teams in a number of old Texas League ballparks, including Wichita, Amarillo, and El Paso. A few of the teams manage to thrive playing just a few miles from a major league park -- the St. Paul Saints, the Kansas City T-Bones, and the Grand Prairie AirHogs (their home field, QuikTrip Park, is just seven miles from The Ballpark in Arlington). These teams draw fans who want to see baseball up close at an affordable price. QuikTrip Park, by the way, cost $20 million to build in 2008, and seats about 5500.

I'm in Denver this weekend to cover the 2017 Western Conservative Summit, one of the largest annual gatherings of conservatives outside the beltway. It's sponsored by the Centennial Institute, a think-tank affiliated with Colorado Christian University.

While the speaker lineup is not loaded with presidential candidates as it has been in years past, there are some big names on tap. Tonight we'll be hearing from former UN Ambassador John Bolton, Sen. Cory Gardner, Centennial Institute director Jeff Hunt, and syndicated columnist Cal Thomas. You can watch the plenary sessions live online on the Centennial Institute YouTube channel.

The weekend includes a broad selection of workshops. I just attended a session led by Pam Benigno and Ross Izard of the Education Policy Center of the Independence Institute on how to have an impact on your local school district, and in a few minutes I'll head to a session provicatively titled "Why Conservatives Should Be Christians; Why Christians Should be Conservatives" led by Prof. Doug Groothuis of Denver Seminary.

I'll be live-tweeting the sessions, so follow me @BatesLine on Twitter. The hashtag for the conference is #WCS17.

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BatesLine Linkblog

Latest links of interest:

tragic -- Live Right. Love Well.

"As I sit in my quiet, still house, I realize how much time and emotional energy has been spent dress rehearsing tragedy. So much. It makes me angry and sad all at once because I realize it is a distraction from the enemy that works every stinkin' time. Why? Because no matter what my head knows, my heart still struggles to believe that He is for me. That He is perfect in all of His ways, even when those ways hurt my heart. I wrestle with the truth that He is a good, good father. I still fight the tension of hearing His voice and believing His words. I'm still human.

"God is God and I am not. My delusion of self-sufficiency is broken all over again and I land on this truth. And then a wave of relief follows. I don't have to know it all or figure it out. Good! Because my way is exhausting."

Liberals sick of the alt-left are taking 'the red pill' | Fox News

Hopeful news about the rising generation:

"People of all ages and ethnicities are posting YouTube videos describing 'red pill moments'--personal awakenings that have caused them to reject leftist narratives imbibed since childhood from friends, teachers, and the news and entertainment media.

"You might say that those who take the red pill have been 'triggered.' But instead of seeking out 'safe spaces,' they're doing the opposite, posting monologues throwing off the shackles of political correctness.

"Their videos can feature the kind of subversiveness that was once a hallmark of the left--before the movement lost its sense of humor."

The Supine: Wheelock's Grammar

A seldom-seen Latin construction to indicate purpose or point-of-view.


Latin Verbal: Supine: ThoughtCo
Supine: The Latin Library

Cases in Finnish

And you thought Latin nouns were hard to decline: Finnish has 14 cases.

THE PRONUNCIATION OF LATIN: Ancient and Modern Pronunciations

"A great deal of heat, if not light, has been spent on the problem of the "correct pronunciation of Latin". Probably most students will go with the method that their teachers use, but whichever way you follow, remember that this is a matter of scholarship, not of religion or faith. If there is any overriding parameter of judgment, it should probably be on the side of convenience, but in the last analysis the student who is really concerned with the way Latin may have sounded, as a part of his esthetic appreciation of a poet like Vergil, must try to find out the best way, so far as he can determine it, and follow it....

"Incidentally much the same misfortune has accrued to the sensitive and lovely Classical Greek language, where a perfectly attested pitch inflection of a musical fifth (marked by an acute accent in the Alexandrian period for the benefit of benighted foreigners like us) is regularly replaced by a heavy stress...."

From a collection of background essays on Latin by William Harris, Professor Emeritus of Middlebury College.

Here is a more comprehensive guide to Latin pronunciation with discussion of its evolution over time, part of the Orbis Latinus Descriptive Latin Grammar, which also has this helpful guide to alternative verb endings often found in Latin poetry.

Were Confederate Generals Traitors?, by Walter E.Williams | Creators Syndicate

From the brilliant professor of economics at George Mason U. (who happens to be an African American):

"America's first secessionist movement started in New England after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Many were infuriated by what they saw as an unconstitutional act by President Thomas Jefferson. The movement was led by Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts, George Washington's secretary of war and secretary of state. He later became a congressman and senator. 'The principles of our Revolution point to the remedy -- a separation,' Pickering wrote to George Cabot in 1803, for "the people of the East cannot reconcile their habits, views, and interests with those of the South and West." His Senate colleague James Hillhouse of Connecticut agreed, saying, "The Eastern states must and will dissolve the union and form a separate government." This call for secession was shared by other prominent Americans, such as John Quincy Adams, Elbridge Gerry, Fisher Ames, Josiah Quincy III and Joseph Story. The call failed to garner support at the 1814-15 Hartford Convention.

"The U.S. Constitution would have never been ratified -- and a union never created -- if the people of those 13 'free sovereign and Independent States' did not believe that they had the right to secede. Even on the eve of the War of 1861, unionist politicians saw secession as a right that states had. Rep. Jacob M. Kunkel of Maryland said, 'Any attempt to preserve the union between the states of this Confederacy by force would be impractical and destructive of republican liberty.' The Northern Democratic and Republican parties favored allowing the South to secede in peace....

"Confederate generals were fighting for independence from the Union just as George Washington and other generals fought for independence from Great Britain. Those who'd label Gen. Robert E. Lee as a traitor might also label George Washington as a traitor. I'm sure Great Britain's King George III would have agreed."

The Art of Being a Red State Liberal -- Strong Towns

"When you're in the minority, success is measured in inches.  It's not for the faint of heart. You have to be able to care and fight and lose, and somehow summon the hope to continue caring and fighting and losing, over and over again.  Until, eventually, maybe you win, just a little bit.

"But you'll never win if you don't respect the people who disagree with you."

Good advice for conservatives, too. And yes, Sarah Kobos is as gracious in conversation as she comes across in this essay.

Polygamy argument shouldn't be dismissed - and I speak from experience --
Brisbane Times

"I can speak on the subject of polygamy with some degree of understanding.  My Chinese grandfather had two wives at the same time, although only one - my grandmother - was allowed into Australia.  It was only after my grandmother's death that my "second grandmother" was able to migrate to Australia.  It has touched my extended family deeply.

"Whilst I honour and love my grandfather deeply, what he did was selfish and unfair on those subsequent generations who have had to live with the consequences.  My family is proof that love alone is not sufficient justification for marriage.

"Around the world, polygamy is accepted in 58 countries; far more than allow same-sex marriage.  It is even practised in our near neighbours of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.  I can confidently predict that if we allow same-sex marriage then there will eventually be a demand that polygamy be legalised too.  Do we really want that?...

"If the current debate was all about love, and only love, there wouldn't be a debate.  The reason there is a debate is that a change to the marriage laws will fundamentally alter the shape of Australian society.

"That is why, like millions of other Australians, I shall be voting 'no'."

Dear Tulsa - Beth Knight - Medium

"The Tulsa tech community has created this unique magic and it's something that needs to be noticed and fostered.

"I left Tulsa because I had exhausted the online resources, such as Team Treehouse and Bloc, and I did not want to pursue another four year degree. Wassim Metallaoui told me that a program in Denver called Turing could take me from a dabbler to a real software developer. It was an exhausting seven month program, but I did it. I found a job in Boulder that I will be starting this week and it's all roses. But I believe there should have been an option like this for me in Tulsa. Tulsa has a lower cost of living and a much more actively engaged programming community. Right now, the most difficult part of hiring a junior programmer is finding a company with a mentorship program in place. There is a rough 3 month on boarding process, but after that you have a fairly decent programmer. After a year of working they're considered mid level. The ramp up time is rough but it is brief. Maybe it needs to be subsidized by someone, I don't know. But it's not long to turn someone from a dabbler into a developer....

"Right now bootcamps all over the nation are shutting down because there is a glut of junior developers in the market. But not in Tulsa. Tulsa is a place where people are committed to their community and will do whatever it takes to see it thrive. This is my plea to companies to set up these junior positions and the city to bring in the bootcamps to retrain people. It's doable. I am doing it. I was not able to pursue this dream in Tulsa because the opportunity was not there, but it can be. I don't know how to fix the educational or transportation system, but I do know how to bring in more skilled labor. And when you have skilled labor, the companies follow."

My comment: Tulsa Technology Center and Tulsa Community College are rolling in taxpayer dollars, thanks to their dedicated slices of our property taxes. This is exactly the sort of program they ought to offer. Skills-focused training is why they exist.

How Oxford and Peter Singer drove me from atheism to Jesus - The Veritas Forum - The Veritas Forum

"Singer recognised that philosophy faces a vexing problem in relation to the issue of human worth. The natural world yields no egalitarian picture of human capacities. What about the child whose disabilities or illness compromises her abilities to reason? Yet, without reference to some set of capacities as the basis of human worth, the intrinsic value of all human beings becomes an ungrounded assertion; a premise which needs to be agreed upon before any conversation can take place.

"I remember leaving Singer's lectures with a strange intellectual vertigo; I was committed to believing that universal human value was more than just a well-meaning conceit of liberalism.  But I knew from my own research in the history of European empires and their encounters with indigenous cultures, that societies have always had different conceptions of human worth, or lack thereof.  The premise of human equality is not a self-evident truth: it is profoundly historically contingent.  I began to realise that the implications of my atheism were incompatible with almost every value I held dear."

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